ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If Broncos fans were on Twitter ahead of Sunday's game with the Chargers, they might have seen grainy cell-phone video, shot high above in the press box, of Von Miller working out with Head Athletic Trainer Vince Garcia.
They may have seen Miller on the sideline during the game — either from the stands or on TV — or caught a glimpse of Head Coach Vic Fangio's postgame press conference, in which Fangio detailed why Miller missed his first game since 2013.
But no one outside the Broncos' building, at least until Thursday, saw the emotion that Miller carried in the wake of being unable to play against the Chargers with a knee injury.
"It was hard," said Miller on Thursday in his first comments since his 95-game playing streak was snapped. "It was extremely hard. I cried real tears. A 30-year-old man. It was extremely hard for me. I thought, especially at the beginning of the week and the way that I've healed over my career, I thought I was going to be able to put it out there."
Miller hadn't missed a game since he tore his ACL in 2013, and he said there were a variety of upsetting factors when he wasn't able to join his teammates on the field.
"I think it was just a mixture of everything," Miller said. "As a pro football player, my identity is sewn into playing football. It's sewn into playing football, it's sewn into getting sacks and being out there with my teammates. Just to have that taken away for just a little bit — I have other stuff that I can do. Everybody knows I can farm chickens and I'm quite the comedian, but who I am, I play football. That's what I do well right now. To have that taken away, just for three hours, I really felt it."
Miller revealed that he is dealing with an MCL injury — which he said he suffered in Week 12 vs. Buffalo — and at his position, that wasn't an issue he could overcome.
"If I was standing back off the ball, playing D-tackle or something like that, or inside 'backer, anything like that [I could have played], but all [the] exotic movements I really couldn't do. My game has a foundation in exotic movements. I took it all the way up until the deadline and just couldn't do it. I couldn't even say it. I couldn't even say I wasn't playing, I had to let them make that call because in my head I had already geared my mind up. I was ready to go, I went to sleep the night before and went through all of my pregame rituals. Everything that I do, I was getting ready for the game, and I just couldn't do it."
Miller said he felt he was ready to rush the passer, but "it just wasn't there at all" when he got blocked backward as he tried to simulate playing the run.
"I could've just limped around and stayed out of action, but that's not how I play football and that's not what my teammates needed from me," Miller said.
As an undersized player, Miller relies on his moves and athleticism more than most. Until he gets the "exotic movement" back, he doesn't feel like he should play.
That's not to say that Miller wants to sit out the rest of the season. He made it clear he wants to play when he is ready to return to the field.
"I've still got an opportunity to go out there and get sacks and make plays," Miller said. "As long as there's a small opportunity and a small window for me to do that, I'm going to do it."
He could be getting closer. Miller said he's getting "better every day," and he has been limited in practice after missing two of three practices ahead of Week 13.
"I'm doing everything I can possibly do," Miller said. "I usually heal like Wolverine. Whatever it is that I can do, whatever the trainers need me to do and whatever we can do as a whole, I'm doing that.
But as Miller said, "it's not something that I just get over like that," and he could potentially miss another week.
If he's unable to play, though, he'll still be the same Von Miller he's always been on the sideline.
"I was still out there with my guys," said Miller of the win over the Chargers. "Being out there with my guys, when it comes to bringing energy, I do that for that guys. Whatever I needed to do to make sure everybody was going. When [Brandon McManus] kicked that kick though, I didn't feel my knee or any of that. I was running out on the field like, 'Let's go.'
"It was tough. It was tough watching, but that's what I had to do."
Both he and the Broncos hope he won't be watching for long.